Discussions on the primary and redundant water suppliers for the new Ben E. Keith Distribution Center currently being constructed just outside of New Brockton along U.S. Highway 84 reached Elba recently. Last Monday evening, July 20, a work session was held between the Elba Industrial Development Board (IDB) and the Elba Water and Electric Board to discuss a request coming from Coffee County on behalf of the Ben E. Keith project searching for a commitment to be the primary water supplier for the distribution center. Project and Coffee County officials had been in prior discussions with Elba Mayor Mickey Murdock and the Industrial Development Board on whether Elba was interested in being either the primary or redundant water supplier for the facility. It was determined that making that happen would be an ultimate decision of the Elba Water and Electric Board, and therefore, the parties all got together to discuss the matter. Ultimately, it appeared the notion coming from the work session would be that Elba most likely would want to be the primary water supplier or not be involved since there would be room for growth for the water system in becoming the primary supplier to that location with no real revenue coming from choosing only to be the redundant supplier. On Monday, July 27, the Elba Water and Electric Board met for its regular monthly meeting, and the matter was officially discussed by the board members during the meeting. Board chairman Tim Johnson provided a breakdown of figures from monies already invested, and potential grant funds available to funds said to be invested by the Elba IDB and additional costs to be covered. Johnson said project estimates indicated this would be a $1.8 million project [all funding considered]. Taking out $60,000 already invested by the county, a potential of up to $800,000 in grant funds, as well as, $300,000 from the Elba IDB to be put on the project if Elba were to be the primary water source, Johnson said that would leave approximately $350,000-$360,000 to still be invested by Elba Water and Electric. This all would allow the Elba Water and Electric System to be extended along Highway 84 all the way to the Ben E Keith site near New Brockton. That would give Elba the option to be the water supplier for others that build in this area, including any additional businesses as part of the county’s industrial development park on along Hwy 84 across from the Ben E. Keith project. Johnson also noted a plan in motion for a 20-house subdivision to be constructed in the area to which Elba could also be the water supplier. He said all of this brings potential for growth for Elba’s Water System. After a rather lengthy discussion, Johnson asked the board members how they wished to proceed – be the primary supplier, redundant supplier, or not be involved at all. Board member Barry Giles said he felt Elba should be the primary water supplier or nothing at all. “It’s more expense, but the potential for growth is there,” Giles said. The other board members seemed to concur. Giles made a motion with a second from board member Jane Brunson for the Elba Water and Electric Board to be the primary water provider for the Ben E. Keith distribution center contingent upon the Elba Water System not obligating itself to debt services and operational expenses with a 20-30 year loan note above revenues realized. The motion passed unanimously with all voting in favor of Giles’ motion. Johnson again stressed the importance of the growth opportunity here for Elba but said it is imperative to make sure all things ‘promised’ comes to fruition on this project to be sure Elba Water and Electric does not find itself in a negative debt situation. The Elba Industrial Development Board has a meeting set for Tuesday, Aug. 4, at 12 noon at Elba City Hall where it is believed that board will further discuss its desire to participate in this water project by providing funds. Also during the Elba Water and Electric board meeting Monday night, Jeremy Heath was introduced as the new water department supervisor for Elba. He replaces Melissa Morris who recently resigned from the position.
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